Sunday, January 16, 2022

Brief Note on For-Profit Health Care

When the whole health care system’s goal is first to make a profit, and when the state also supports the health care system in that goal, the system becomes an extortion racket. This doesn’t mean that individuals or organizations in the system must be forbidden to make a living or even a profit, but that their goals cannot be allowed to override the goal of keeping people healthy.

The Biden administration’s solicitude of health insurance and pharmaceutical industry profits is discouraging, though it is probably politically necessary. Yes, Jeff Zients, Biden Administration White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, I am looking at you.

Friday, January 7, 2022

Taney Court II: the Right to Infect

And once again, the Supreme Court's liberals are acting like jurists, while the "conservatives" are acting like Twitter trolls. Dahlia Lithwick, writing at Slate, offers a horrified summary. It seems that the conservative wing of the Roberts Court is ready to declare that the emergency measures the Biden administration is undertaking to control covid are to be forbidden under doctrines that cannot be found anywhere in precedent, statute law, or the Constitution. The Roberts Court is living up to my description as Taney Court II.

Three-and-a-half years ago, I wrote: “Federal law is now a matter of whim. The full extent of this failure will be felt in all aspects of our lives. Our very lives will be in danger.” And now, it seems, the Supreme Court is ready to declare plague-spreading a constitutional right, or at least one that can only be forbidden by a deadlocked Congress.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

The CDC, Seat Belts, the US National Character, and the Shadow

The Biden administration’s CDC has been, I think, consistently too cautious and optimistic in their efforts to control covid and this is at least partly because there is only so much the public is willing to do.

CDC director Walensky: the new covid restrictions “really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.” The CDC is being blamed for not adopting recommendations the public is unwilling to carry out. I am reminded of the introduction of seat belt customs and laws. It took a generation to go from “seat belts save lives” and “we will put seat belts in every new car” to the laws which mandate the wearing of seat belts. I find it hard to imagine ways by which the CDC could get the public to undertake more stringent Covid precautions – it is hard enough to get people to to comply with even inadequate practices.  

It is an expression of a flaw in our national character that we want the CDC to order us to do what we are not as a nation willing to do. As a nation, the USA is not willing to confront its shadow, the parts of itself that it does not want to know. The Trump administration was able to take advantage of this, and got and is still getting a pass from our news media, very much to our nation’s shame.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Second Civil War

I say it has already begun. The first battle was on January 6th 2020 and the second is the deliberate spreading of covid by state governments.

If one reads the history of the start of the first Civil War, there was politicking on the way to the war. As President Lincoln did in 1861, President Biden faces a hostile Supreme Court. Also as in 1861 there was conflict in Congress, though in 1861 this was alleviated by the rebel states leaving Congress. As a result the then Republican-dominated Congress was then able to pass (per Wikipedia) “the Morrill Tariff, land grant colleges (the Morrill Act), a Homestead Act, a transcontinental railroad (the Pacific Railroad Acts), the National Bank Act, the authorization of United States Notes by the Legal Tender Act of 1862, and the ending of slavery in the District of Columbia” and the first income tax, which funded the military effort to put down the rebellion. The South was not only pro-slavery, it was anti-federal in policy, much as our current Republican Party is.

Returning to our current situation, it is not yet clear to me what the next move of our would-be traitors will be. Perhaps a campaign of domestic terror on the lines of the first Klan? That seems all too plausible and there seem to be plenty of Republicans willing to participate.

I am concerned that the Democratic leadership does not seem to understand what they are up against. Governor DeSantis of Florida, Governor Abbott of Texas, and Governor Noem of South Dakota are traitors, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, yet I see no calls from the Democratic leadership for their resignations, let alone prosecution. Perhaps, like Lincoln, they are negotiating while waiting for some decisive act on the part of the traitors. If so, they will lose the initiative. One unanswered question: Biden turns out, unexpectedly to me, to have the stuff of greatness, but he is an old man in a situation whose stresses would tax a much younger person. Does Harris have the stuff of greatness? What will she do when faced with a further insurrection?

As I suppose is normal in such unsettled times, much remains unclear. But I fear for my country.

Are They Crazy?

(In writing this, I have the horrible sinking feeling that there ought to be a book on this subject, but I am not aware of that book. So here are my short remarks.)

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Every so often on Twitter, Jim Wright (@stonekettle) remarks that some Republican who believes some obviously mad thing seems mentally ill. A discussion of the sanity (or lack thereof) of Republicans who believe strange things then ensues. It seems that on the left there are many amateur psychologists, much as on the right there are many amateur constitutional scholars, and much fact-free verbiage is thereby generated. But the question remains, “Well, are they?”

Monday, December 6, 2021

Barrett’s Mask Slipped

(My apologies – I have been AWOL. I have a number of pieces on my virtual desk, but the news and life have been just too much for me. It is stressful to write these pieces, and to write about what will probably be one of the worst Supreme Court Decisions of a very bad Court.)

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Wednesday, December 1, 2021, the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a law that includes a 15-week abortion ban. If it is allowed to stand, all the dire results that pro-choice advocates have predicted – women dying, children forced to bear the children of their molesters, and on and on – will be realized. I don’t have anything to add to the coverage of the case from the pro-choice side. Rewire News Group’s Jessica Mason Pieklo live-tweeted the hearing. You can wander past their web site for more or look around in other places with your favorite search engine. No-one except for foolish men and fanatics believes that overturning Roe is going to be anything but disastrous.

The short summary of the conduct of the conservative judges is that they behaved like fascist Twitter trolls, while the liberal judges behaved like sober responsible jurists. I was especially dismayed by the conduct of Amy Coney Barrett, who made an anti-vax reference and took a swipe at pregnant women everywhere by treating the nine months of pregnancy as risk-free, and giving up a child for adoption as an easy and painless thing. This is cruel nonsense. Avedon Carol, writing more than 15 years ago: “Pretty much everyone I know who has had an abortion regards it as a sad time in their life, but they chose it as the best of a bad bunch of choices. No one I know who put a child up for adoption has ever stopped grieving over it.”

Competent lawyers and judges are professionally polite; it is their job to resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner. But on December 1, 2021, Barrett’s mask slipped, and the hatred leaked through.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Cooperative Social Media Were Liberating, Commercial Social Media Are Controlling

The original cooperative social media were liberating, social media operated as a conduit for advertising is controlling. At the very beginning of social media, APIs were open and there were multiple different clients providing different ways to experience the feeds. Problem is, as soon as you allow that, who is going to allow advertising in their feed? So user choice in clients was taken away.

Some of the old cooperative social media are still around. They work on donated resources or a free/pay system, but, similar to public television and radio, they do not have the reach of the advertising-controlled systems that run addiction algorithms. There are times when I suspect that the only way to run good social media is to run them as nonprofit cooperatives.